The Safety Delusion

The other day, someone at worked as me if I were afraid to die on the streets.

This told me a number of things.

One was that in his mind, and many others, a bicycle equals death.

I wrote about this before.

Another thing, though, was that it implied that motoring was safe.

Not a safer choice, given conditions, but just plain old safe.

It’s not.

I wondered where he got this idea since there are so many car accidents, we all know at least one person who has been injured in one, and many more of us were in them.

I don’t know the answer to this question, but it affects how we treat road design.

This is why I oppose our hysteria about drunk driving and our hand waving over motorist education about our “rights to the road.”

Yes, we should not drink and drive. Yes, we should be educated.

But I’d argue that poorly designed roads are as much to blame for people’s deaths as drunks and lack of education.

When we focus on drunks and learning, we seem to pretend that the roads are safe right now. We just need smarter, sober drivers.

I have been looking into other alternatives.

One of them is “Sustainable Safety.”

This movement started in 1991, and it seeks to continually make countries like the Netherlands, safer.

“At the same time, every year, we have to regret the fact that so many road traffic casualties occur. This represents enormous societal loss.”

This is from the safest country in the world.

They are so humble.

The difference here is that there is an emphasis on safety in engineering.

It is assumed that the same is true in the United Statses, but from my limited contact with people, there is no.

In vehicle purchasing there is a desire for the appearance of safety, but many vehicles that are bought for safety purposes, like SUVS, are actually less safe than cars.

But when people have complained to the City of San Diego because they felt a section was unsafe, the city disagreed. This is despite several accidents happening there.

So the burden of proof is on us. Roads designed within code are seen as safe. This is despite our large number of traffic deaths a year.

On the other hand, things that have worked well in other countries, saving many lives, Countries like the Netherlands have had a twenty-fold reductions in children deaths after the “Stop de Kindermoord” (Child Murder Campaign).

I wonder why we have not had the same outrage to the deaths of children in the US.

This blog post talks more about Sustainable Safety:

Strangely, in California where there are more cycling deaths, in proportion to the number of riders, yet less money spent on safety for cyclists, new innovations are put under a microscope because they may be “unsafe”.

The reality is that that roads are all ready unsafe, and the fact that people don’t ride means that we don’t care about cyclists here.

As pointed out elsewhere, if they merely made cycling illegal, more people would be doing it. Right now it’s seen as so terrible, dangerous, and unpleasant, more people smoke pot, which is illegal than ride a bicycle.

Why is this? I don’t really know the answers, but I do realize that this reality means that we have been sold out by Quislings who have made cycling worse than illegal.

For those who’d like to see what real advocates have done, let’s look at a movie about them in the Netherlands:


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